Even as Thailand ranks second in levels of domestic violence among 49 countries studied by the United Nations (U.N.) recently, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has reiterated her commitment to elimination and prevention of violence against women.

“Gender issues and women’s empowerment are top priorities of my government,” she told a delegation of journalists from Asean and other countries in Bangkok over the weekend.

With the U.N. study reporting that 63 per cent of the Thai population finds it acceptable for a man to hit his wife, Ms. Yingluck expressed concern at the inequality and gender discrimination that continues to be a major problem in the region. “Women need to participate more in decision making and exchange inspiration,” she told the media persons, led by Regional Director of U.N. Women for Asia and the Pacific Roberta Clarke.

Though the Thai Premier’s gender leadership initiatives have been appreciated by international agencies, NGOs and women’s groups, it remains to be seen how far the government can go in actually strengthening women’s position and productive capacities in the economic sector.

Ms. Yingluck is credited with establishing a Women’s Empowerment Fund and also launching a national campaign that reflects the community’s responsibility to guarantee a life free of violence for women and girls.

“We are working in partnership with various agencies and the people to ensure equality of opportunity and no discrimination on the basis of sex and gender,” she told the delegation.

Synergising with the U.N.’s 57th Session on “Elimination and Prevention of Violence against Women and Girls” billed for March next year, Ms. Yingluck has assured her government will share its track record on protection and prevention of crime.

Thailand’s tourism is driven by a flourishing sex industry but Ms. Yingluck is keen to set international norms and standards on gender equality, women’s rights and empowerment having called for review and development of legislations.

Ms. Yingluck, who was the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations in India in January, is slated to visit New Delhi next week to participate in the Asean-India commemorative summit from December 20 to 22, celebrating 20 years of relations between Asean and India. It is expected to strengthen the increasing economic and political ties between the two maritime neighbours with the Thai Premier keen on wrapping up the bilateral full free-trade agreement despite some opposition from the private sector in her country.

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